My goodness. If anyone had told me the extent to which moving to another country would incur the volume of paperwork and means of identification that we’ve had to show over the last few weeks, I wouldn’t have believed them. There’s also no consistency, so it’s akin to a big game of ‘Guess Who’ and you have to try and predict which forms of identification and paperwork will suffice for which organisation.
For some, it’s obvious. On entry into Canada, we had to provide a ream of paperwork on official forms, with every type of UK identification you can think of, along with employer letters and bank statements, payroll slips and birth certificates. But this you expect, and equally, you’re reassured that the authorities are taking all measures to ensure who they accept into the country are both eligible and authentic. How did we slip through the net then I hear you shout …..
So, upon entry into a new country we were awarded a work permit and visitor permits for a set duration of time. Another piece of documentation to add to our set – yes, but an absolute essential item, as without it you can’t get any further. Imagine snakes and ladders – this would be the first snake you’d go down without being able to present the official permits and you’d remain there until one was obtained.
Moving on, we then had to obtain a Social Identification Number (or SIN) as it’s commonly referred to – rather like a National Insurance number in the UK. It’s unique to you, and it validates your entitlement to then register for a range of social services and healthcare, but also importantly, for those working in Canada, any Canadian employer isn’t able to pay you without having this. (By the way, no one tells you the critical path of obtaining all these various forms of identification – it’s very much a sense of luck that you manage to get them in the right order). This is another piece of critical paper that you mustn’t lose and is required for further services down the line …. (not that I realised it at the original time).
Next up, was opening a bank account. I’m informed all banks take a different approach to the identification required – luckily, ours accepted all of the previously obtained documents above – plus a UK passport, driving licence, birth and marriage certificates to prove who we were. It’s a good job we were extremely well prepared and purposely travelled with every known document we possessed. We had also tracked down all documents we thought we may need, which covered every possible eventuality before departing the UK – just goes to show, without doing this, we would definitely have come unstuck. Think of Monopoly – you cannot pass go …
We’ve also had to buy both a house and a car. Let me just say, that whilst both have required paperwork, the volumes of which even ‘The Hobbit’ would be classed as a ‘light read’ in comparison – on reflection, it’s been harder to secure a car in Canada with financing over a 3 year period than it has been to get a mortgage for the next 25 years. I kid you not.
You get caught in a catch 22 situation. You need to build up a credit history to be able to apply for credit cards and smaller loans – even ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes for sofas – but they won’t accept you as you’ve got no previous credit in the country. It’s no good showing UK letters from banks and previous insurers about your credibility as they don’t count for anything in a different country. We’ve often had to adopt an approach of hauling all manner of documents out of our bags and asking them to peruse which they’d like to accept from the vast ream available in the hope that there’s the critical 1 or 2 hidden amongst them which offers the assurances required.
And just when you think you’ve navigated your way through what can only be described as a minefield, there’s always something which presents an additional hurdle which wasn’t foreseen. For example, we managed to buy a car at the end of last week, and once all the documents have been signed and finance agreed, you can’t take the vehicle without going to a ‘Registry Office’ and obtaining a registration plate for the vehicle. Simple you may think. To do this, you have to show proof of identity with a driving licence … an Albertan driving licence which also forms the basis for your car insurance as well as a registration plate for the car. This we didn’t have. Yes, we could offer UK driving licenses and in the end, these have been surrendered and temporary Albertan driving licenses provided in lieu of the official ones being dispatched to us over the next few weeks. It’s an offence in Alberta to carry 2 driving licences – you can only have one, and can only hold a UK licence in the country for upto 12 months anyhow. It was with a bit of trepidation that we handed these over – but the good news is, we secured our car in the process. Some things you just have to sacrifice in battle in order to win the war.
Luckily, there are some surprises and things which you expect to prove difficult which have been amazingly easy and quick to secure. Take enrolling the kids into schools – this was a 5 minute telephone conversation followed by a visit to the school and demonstrating we were moving into the designated area along with birth certificates and school reports. Fantastic! This also meant the kids were only out of any education for a week – not bad considering.
Tomorrow, we finally move into our Canadian house and become officially Canadian residents. Bit of a milestone. Not bad for Week 4 since our arrival … the saga continues 🙂